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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1830

Vol. I

(Born Ga.)

William E. Basinger

(Ap'd Ga.)


William Elon Basinger: Born Sep. 27, 1806, Savannah, GA.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1826, to July 1, 1830, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., 2d Artillery, July 1, 1830.

Second Lieut., 2d Artillery, July 1, 1830.

Served: in garrison at Ft. Moultrie, S. C., 1831, — and Augusta Arsenal, Ga., 1831; at the Military Academy, as Asst. Instructor of Infantry Tactics, Nov. 24, 1831, to Dec. 19, 1833; in garrison at Ft. Jackson, La., 1834, — Covington, La., 1834, — and Ft. Jackson, La., 1834‑35; in the Florida War, 1835; and, in Dade's desperate battle with the Seminole Indians, "where the whole command, save three, fell without an attempt to retreat," was

Killed,​1 Dec. 28, 1835: Aged 29.

Buried, St. Augustine National Cemetery, St. Augustine, FL.​a

The Author's Note:

1 General Hitchcock, who passed over the battle-ground Feb. 22, 1836, reports: "Along the north and west faces of the triangular breastwork formed by felled trees, were about thirty bodies, mere skeletons, although much of the clothing was left upon them. They were lying, almost every one of them, in precisely the position they must have occupied during the fight, — their heads next to the logs over which they had delivered their fire, and their bodies stretched with striking regularity parallel to each other. They had evidently been shot dead at their posts, and the Indians had not disturbed them, except by taking the scalps of most of them. . . . The advance guard, doubtless, fell during the first attack. It was during a cessation of fire that the little band still remaining — about thirty in number — threw up the triangular breastwork, which, from the haste with which it was constructed, was necessarily defective and could not protect the men on the second attack."

"The action lasted from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. The United States troops amounted to one hundred and eight, and the savage foe to eight hundred Seminole Indians, and one hundred negroes. While a man could load a musket the firing was continued. When all the officers, except Lieutenant Basinger, had fallen, he said: 'Now, my boys, let us do the best we can: I am the only officer left,' upon which the firing recommenced. About half-past two o'clock he was brought down by a rifle-shot in the thighs, and he was afterwards cruelly massacred by a negro."

A beautiful monument, of white Italian marble, was erected at West Point, to "Dade and his Command."

Thayer's Note: For full details of the fight in which Lt. Basinger lost his life, still now usually referred to as Dade's Massacre, and his burial in Florida, see Alfred Mudge's Memorials, pp383‑393 and "The Dade Massacre", Florida Historical Society Quarterly 5:123‑138 (1927), where (p128) the reader will note that it was Lt. Basinger who saved the life of our principal witness to the massacre, one of only three men to come out alive.

Thayer's Note:

a The executor of Lt. Basinger's estate was Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.John C. Casey; among his personal effects, his kerchief, money belt, and sash have made their way to the Dade Battlefield Historic Site in Bushnell, FL.

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Page updated: 11 Oct 13